BY JANE CANAWAY AND LAURA LUVARA
07 Apr, 2009 05:56 PM
LINKING townships along growth corridors – such as Craigieburn and Wallan – is the best way to plan Melbourne’s spread, according to the head of the Growth Areas Authority, Peter Seamer.
As landowners and environmentalists await the imminent release of new boundaries for Melbourne’s urban growth, Mr Seamer said last week the GAA aimed to align growth along existing rail and road corridors.
“We strongly support urban consolidation. But in Victoria there is demand for 10,000 new homes a year across the UGB (urban growth boundary).”
The expansion will eat into Green Wedge areas, set up in 2005 to protect the city’s open spaces. But Mr Seamer said the GAA’s approach should benefit the environment and developers and be less ad hoc than in the past.
“We have mapped everything inside and even some outside of the new UGB. Areas of high value we want to set aside…developers need to know in advance what they can and cannot develop.”
Farmers, however, will have to make their own choices about how to use their land.
“Toorak used to be prime farmland too,” Mr Seamer said.
“The value of land is so high that farmers are often better off going further out, but the issue is – we believe – really around water (availability).”
Cr Drew Jessop said the environment in northern Hume needed preservation, in particular the red gum forests in Mickleham and creek and water courses such as the Merri and Kalkallo creeks.
“Our environmental assets need to be preserved and enhanced whatever the outcome. The council can’t be involved in that or manipulate the market. As long as it’s clear and consistent you have a level-playing field and you can’t argue with that.”
Cr Jessop said an outer-metropolitan ring road and an extension to the Craigieburn railway line needed to be prioritised in the infrastructure. “There needs to be good transport links. Some areas are appropriate for trains while others are for buses, pedestrians and bike trails.”
Environment groups believe there is no need to move the UGB and enough land exists within the existing zones to cater for the growth.
Green Wedge Coalition spokeswoman Arnie Azaris wrote in her submission to the review: “The Calder Highway to Sunbury was not supposed to be a growth corridor and we had guarantees from ministers Delahunty, Hulls and Madden that this would not happen.”
The coalition also argues the land release will put more homes in fire-prone pastures and woodlands.
Coalition member Jenni Bundy, who died in the Black Saturday fires, had analysed Department of Planning and Community Development figures for Urban & Regional Development and had said the projections fell well short of the promised 15 lots per hectare development rates.
“For example, Hume Council shows a yield estimate of only 9.6 lots per hectare in the 6-10 year timeframe and reduces further to 8.07 lots per hectare for land in the 11 year-plus, 2019-plus timeframe,” she wrote.